I Shot Andy Warhol (1996)
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Having been abused as a child, and sexually promiscuous before puberty, Solanis developed a strong antipathy towards men during her student years at the University of Maryland. She financed her degree course by means of prostitution. The film shows her living rough in New York City between 1966 and 1968, begging, soliciting for sex and performing radical street theatre.
She is drawn into the twilight world of Warhol's 'court' of phoneys and hangers-on, a disturbed New York wise-ass who demands recognition but who will never be taken seriously by these Beautiful People.
Jared Harris plays Warhol beautifully as the inarticulate, vacuous fraud at the head of a sham 'movement'. Significantly, Warhol does not get involved in whatever's going on. A Warhol film is being shot in The Factory, but we learn that Andy won't be around today. A drug-besotted 'happening' takes place under the Warhol aegis, but Andy stays on the margins, even of the sex - his purpose is to hit on the wealthy voyeurs who turn up at his parties.
As Warhol the cynical manipulator grows in media credibility, Solanis is reduced to peddling squalid sex and copies of her manifesto around Greenwich Village. It is clear that she has been 'dropped' by the court of Queen Drella. She becomes increasingly embittered, feeling that Warhol is exploiting her writings, and her behaviour deteriorates into violence and incoherence. When she shows up in the same old rags at the newly-gentrified Factory, we grasp what she can't - that the gulf between her and these parasites with savvy is unbridgeable.
Solanis beds a fellow weirdo, and acquires a gun from him. We see their drug-induced disorientation in a sequence of crash-edits, a knowing reference to the pop style of sixties film-making.
This is a very shrewd and very watchable film. It damns Warhol, but is none the worse for that.
If you want to see how Warhol's "Factory" and it's atmosphere then this is the movie you want to see. Jared Harris was perfect as Andy Warhol and Lili Taylor made Valerie Solanis into a tragic person who's life was filled with madness and heartbreak. I was also impressed with Stephen Dorff, I never knew how great of an actor he has become. This movie is perfect and ideal for those who always wanted to know what happened to Warhol during the late sixties and how his life and attitudes were changed forever.
Judging biopics in terms of historical accuracy is for the most part a futile exercise. There is no 'truth', only interpretation, but if you want to get closer to the facts you really should be in the library, not the movie theatre. The story of Valerie Solanas is especially vexing in this case, because were this a work of complete fiction, the script would never have been made. The 'so what?' factor is superseded by the fact that this actually happened, and the legacy of Solanas still divides contemporary feminists.
As cinema, the film succeeds through the charisma exuded in Taylor's performance. Her descent into madness is sudden, vicious and uncompromising. The depiction of the shooting, the moment the film has been leading up to, shows a human being divorced absolutely from her conscience. The groovy scene around Warhol's the Factory is both decadent and, viewed from the 21st century, slightly twee. The pastiche of Sixties nostalgia is less foregrounded than Solanas's brutal victimhood. The film begins with a reading of her psychiatric evaluation, where a litany of unpunished crimes inflicted upon this woman by various men is laid out. The female director sets her stall out straight away - what you are hearing now leads through a direct line of cause and effect to the monstrous act you will see committed by Solanas later.
If the film has a major flaw, it is the title. Audiences could be mistaken for thinking it is about a documentarian of Warhol's life and work. Solanas and her SCUM manifesto, for better or worse, have made their mark, and perhaps 'Solanas' would have been a more fitting (if less marketable) title. Did it take the shooting for that to be the case? A polemical moment in recent history relayed straightforwardly, this is competent, entertaining, edifying cinema.
So, here we have this man hating butch dike played to perfection by Lily Taylor, although since I have never seen Solanas (and I'm sure either had Taylor) I'm not sure if it was true to her, or just Taylor's own wild imaginings of what this woman must have been like. It's similar to Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson, a great performance, but actually quite off the mark as an impersonation of Thompson. But since nobody knows anything about Solanas, Taylor is free to run wild, and run wild she does, as most of commented, completely carrying this film with her intensity and ferocity. If it wasn't for her, this movie would have been a complete bore, since whenever she is not in a scene, I nearly fell asleep, Harron has all these really slow panning shots in red filter that don't show anything of interest. I was kind of intrigued by Solanas philosophy, as bizarre as it was. Much of it was true, sex can be a very solitary experience, especially the kind of sex Solanas has had (rape and prostitution). Men can be governed by their insecurities based on sexual performance and desires (see most political/religious leaders). However what of the female insecurities and desires? THere are plenty and they are just as ugly as the male's. I often wonder if the world would be better off if women ruled it, because I have my own views on what is really driving our consumption based society which is killing the planet. It's the woman as much as the man, perhaps even more so. Women have an insatiable need to consume, hence turning shopping into a hobby, which no man has ever done.
Anyway, check this movie out simply for Taylor, she is brilliant and unrestrainted and her tough talking New York chick impersonation will mezmerize you.
In the film Solanas, who harbors an enormous grudge against men, comes across initially as assertive and resourceful. She makes a living hustling the streets: "Pardon me sir, you got 15 cents? Pardon me sir ..." On the rooftop of a high-rise she types her S.C.U.M. "manifesto", outlining her complaints against the male species.
But whereas Solanas is passionate about her cause, Warhol is a study in emotional detachment and indifference. He, and those in his orbit, sees Solanas more as a hanger-on. At one point, Solanas shows Warhol her typed manifesto. Warhol flips through it and responds in a deadpan manner: "Did you type this yourself? I'm so impressed. You should come type for us." Marvelous.
The film's best element is the acting. Lili Taylor is terrific. She really gets into the Solanas persona. Jared Harris also gives a splendid performance. The film's tone teeters between seriousness and tongue-in-cheek humor. Costumes, prod design, music, and lighting are all credible.
For modern day feminists, "I Shot Andy Warhol" probably is required viewing. For others, the film offers a cinematic study into the mindset of a quirky, sincere, but ultimately self-deceptive and delusional young woman who got her fifteen minutes of fame by carrying her political cause a little too far.
Imagine if the situation were reversed and Solanis was a man calling for the cutting up of all women and denouncing women as an inferior race. Such a viewpoint would be considered monstrous! Solanis is a crank and a fool, so it's impossible to take her character's world view any more seriously than the guy down by the subway station who mumbles to people who aren't there.
The entire Factory scene is rightly exposed as the pretentious, ridiculous collection of sub-mediocre talent it was. So the viewer isn't surprised when Solanis shoots Warhol, as he couldn't say no to anyone around him and surrounded himself with so many weirdos it was inevitable.
Would this film have been lauded had it been a biopic of Mark David Chapman? I don't see much difference between Solanis and Chapman frankly...both complete, colossal failures in life who managed to gain notierity through murder or attempted murder.
In summary, this was a well-executed take on a rather idiotic topic. I'd rather see the director use her talents to make a movie about people who deserve the effort. Not worthless no-talents like Warhol and Solanis.
As for Valerie S., this woman clearly could not have had a high level of intelligence, while the opposite has been suggested here, rather groundlessly. And as far as being a genius, as some people consider her to be, she was just as much a genius as Warhol. (Look, Warhol seems to have been a nice guy, but everything he did was pure b******t-orama.) That she was molested by her father I do not accept as a fact, as this excuse has been so over-used in the recent decades to the extent that it has lost all believability - which just serves to harm the real victims.
The funniest moment in the film (or rather, the only funny moment) was at the very end in the epilogue; here I am informed that Valerie's manifesto is today considered a feminist classic! Funny that, but I was banking on the fact that it must today be considered as funny (or sad) as any other extreme left-wing or right-wing piece of writing, and is hence dismissed even by ardent feminists as irrelevant ravings of a pathetic lunatic. But, as it turns out, I have once again underestimated the tinniness of a modern feminist's brain. Valerie's manifesto seems to be merely a laughable and hateful series of emotionally-induced hallucinations of one woman's twisted view of the world, based solely on her hatred of men. (And if you see how ugly this dog really looked, you'd partly understand why.) It seems to have been enough for her to learn about the chromosome difference between men and women to start arriving to bizarrely idiotic conclusions. A really intelligent person presents their case with logic and facts, not with silly generalizations and theories that have as much of a scientific basis as the infamous babblings of Hitler's and Stalin's medical and biology scientists, with their ideology-driven b******t research. A highly intelligent person in her place - insane or not - would first ask themselves why they hate men so much. She simply hated them, without analyzing herself. How do I know that? Well, she seems to treat everything else with superficiality; judging from this film - and there are plenty of quotes from her junk writings to form a relatively clear picture of her. Her only way of approaching any idea or concept was to disregard all facts, but instead go full steam ahead with emotion, and emotional thinking is the most essential ingredient in arriving to irrational and absurd conclusions.
Ironically, with her unceasing emotionalism and lack of logic she was in fact only giving more support to all the male chauvinists of this world who consider women to be emotional and illogical, while she was trying to prove the opposite - that it is men who are inferior. But whether it's men or women, one thing is for sure: the most inferior species of people on this planet are fanatics, radicals and other morons who view the world in black and white terms. And I am not talking about politicians who oversimplify to achieve their goals without actually believing in the ideologies they are selling themselves - I am talking about the real believers, the low-life losers like Valerie S.; pitiful and bitter sods whose intensity of their beliefs should never be mistaken for genius.
Perhaps the chauvinists are right; it does seem that women have a surplus of illogicality and emotionalist thinking; after all, it's no coincidence that the late 20th century feminist movement is one that exceeds in stupidity more then any other contemporary movement I can think of - except maybe the Green movement and PETA. But, the again, they are also run by women; there you have it.
Anyway... The film is interesting mainly due to Taylor's convincing performance, and the dialog is interesting enough.
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Lili Taylor helms this unbridled beast Solanas like no actress I have seen before. I honestly felt as if Taylor had transformed herself into this brutal feminist. After the first ten minutes, I didn't even recognize Taylor because she had successfully transformed herself into this insane (?) character who carried this film on her shoulders. Taylor plays this woman who, for reasons unknown, constantly seeks Warhol's attention and approval. When Andy refuses to devote his entire attention to her, her mental stability begins to fail. In hopes to bring her back into the spotlight, and hopefully demonstrate to the world her manifesto, she does what the title of this film suggests. Sadly, this has the opposite effect and she is forced to live with the act that she committed instead of the words that she has written.
Taylor was phenomenal in this role. She stole the scene from everyone and was never afraid to take Solanas to the next level. Thankfully, she has some help from some amazing back-up stars to only help boost her performance. Jared Harris is superb as Andy (one of the best reincarnations of him) and Stephen Dorff blazes onto the scene as Candy Darling. Oscars should have been handed out for their parts in this film, but unfortunately this was yet another film the Academy ignored.
Outside of the acting, director Mary Harron does a fabulous job of setting the scene and building the image of this era. Warhol was a genius, and because of his fame and notoriety he somehow attracted some of the most interesting people in the world. This is one of those stories of a woman that wanted to attach herself to this great man, yet somehow couldn't. Harron directs these actors to show this with perfection. Her brash cinematography and direction seem to blend perfectly in this boiling pot of history. Her mix of documentary and biography genres works well in this film. She commands attention behind the camera, and her actors react with positive responses. This was a gritty story not for everyone's tastes. It was a very true story that is more than just Andy Warhol, but also develops themes of feminism and women's rights. Was Solanas crazy? I don't think so, I just think she was ahead of her time and not afraid to be herself.
Grade: ***** out of *****
This is one of the best films of the 1990s, showing a different side to the often romanticized era of the 1960s. This is not the peace, love and flowers of the hippie years, this shows the underground of low life New York, in it's seedy hotels, dirty diners among drugs and sex trade. Solanas is brilliantly played by Lili Taylor, an underrated actress who deserves a better career. Jared Harris makes a believable Warhol, showing him as the shy, awkward artist who finds danger from his naivete about this sick woman he befriends. There is a great scene of a party in the Factory, it looks very authentic. Warhol's circle of friends are not portrayed as just eccentric artists, they are humanized with all the flaws of any else. They are capable of cruelty, cattiness and prejudice like anybody else. The director Mary Harron does an excellent job with the story using flashbacks and black and white sequences where Solanas spouts her crazed rantings. There are some interesting music of the era used here, such as Walk On By by Dionne Warwick, Grazing In The Grass by Hugh Masekela, Do You Believe In Magic by Lovin Spoonful and Summertime Blues by Blue Cheer.
This is highly recommended to anyone interested in true crime stories, pop art and seeing the tough brutal side of the decade.
Dr. Dana Heller, professor of English at the Old Dominion University, argues that the film stages the conflict between Solanas and Warhol as less the result of gender politics – particularly because Solanas intended no connection between her writing and the shooting – than of the decline of print culture as represented by Solanas and the rise of new non-writing media as embodied by Warhol and the Pop art movement. In the screenplay, Harron and Minahan describe Solanas as "banging at an ancient typewriter" and the film frequently shows her typing, for which she is mocked by Warhol and other Factory regulars. Solanas' writing is set against the new technologies of reproduction championed by Warhol.
The Andy Warhol in this film is nothing compared to the one played by David Bowie in "Basquiat". The voice and mannerisms are good, but Bowie just nails it. The film in general is excellent, though, and Lili Taylor was the perfect person for the role. What is she up to these days? It seems like she had a good run in the 1990s, playing off of John Cusack, and then disappeared.
The evocation of the late 60's New York underground, and Warhol's Factory in particular, is brilliant, even more so when you consider the low budget and that Andy Warhol's Estate refused to allow any of the artists work to actually be duplicated for the movie. The pill-popping, light-show gazing, pretentiousness, promiscuity and vacuousness of the scene have not been this well portrayed since Midnight Cowboy.
The supporting cast, without exception, are brilliant, inhabiting their characters completely with just a few lines, and the soundtrack perfectly sets the tone and period. While the narrative lags in spots and could have benefited with a little tightening in the editing room, I Shot Andy Warhol is still a wonderful testament to the ambitious possibilities of low-budget, independent film-making.
Now: as a presentation of the events that led to Warhol's shooting, this film was brilliant. Its portrayal of Solanas's and Warhol's motivations and ideas is done with compassion and clarity; I particularly enjoyed its characterization of Warhol, which, in my opinion, was quite complimentary, contrary to some other opinions expressed on this board. He approaches things with an endearingly childlike innocence, a willingness to accept anything as beautiful... Well, some people might not find that complimentary... Nonetheless, it is his hangers on who come across as cruel and unpleasant. And of course, Lili Taylor plays the idiosyncratic Solanas marvelously.
Unfortunately, the focus on the context of the events causes the film to suffer as a narrative. Many of the mood generating scenes, while providing considerable insight into the characters, seem directionless and unsure. This would not be a problem had they been more visually or emotionally compelling, but as it is, they are only occasionally composed as anything other than simple, plot-furthering shots. The result is that the film seems digressive and unfocused, and this digression mars what could have been a fascinating film.
In the end, though, this is certainly a film worth watching, if you're willing to pay attention, especially when one of its more striking images comes to the surface.
The "art scene" is masterfully presented - its decadence only overshadowed by its ultimate emptiness.
the acting was so suburb for a directorial debut, i cant believe her only other movie was american pycho. lili taylor was so great in Household Saints, although the script makes her go a little over the top at the end in this film.